Review of 2013

This year was easily my busiest gigging year so far with 107 gigs which included the a trip to the USA for SXSW. At the beginning of the year I’d set myself an aim to attend an average of 2 gigs a week. But I wasn’t too serious about it as I knew I was going to SXSW which effectively would mean three months lean months. (SXSW counted as one gig). So at the end of March, I’d only been to five or six gigs meaning that I’d have to average over 10 gigs a month. But despite a heavy workload during summer at work, I somehow managed to pull it back on to track.

I’m not sure how many bands I saw this year, but as I saw around 100 at SXSW, I must have seen at least 200 when taking into account support acts. Overall, it’s been a very good year. I can’t think of too many bad gigs. But as is customary, I’m going to run through the highlights and lowlights of 2013.

As usual I saw British Sea Power the most, seeing them six times. But this year they were closely followed by Bo Ningen and the Savages. Two excellent live bands.

This year was also a poor year for missed gigs, missing Alt-J, Veronica Falls, The Chapman Family, the Quietus Party, the KVB, Laura Marling (twice), Islet, Parquet Courts, Ruen Brothers, Loom, and the Dead Skeletons. Probably the one I’m most annoyed about missing is Parquet Courts as most of the other bands I managed to catch up with at some other time. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to catch up with them in 2014.

My 2013 Best and Worst

Best gig: British Sea Power at Bournemouth Arts Festival

What constitutes the best gig? The performance? The venue? The crowd? Probably something of all of these. The greatest gig may not necessarily be the best performance. This year there were a number of gigs in the running. Not necessarily the best performances but the overall package produced memorable results.

If you’ve read my blog, then you’ll notice British Sea Power feature prominently, so it’s to be expected that one of their gigs might feature on my ‘top’ list. This year two, feature prominently. The first, a trip down to Bournemouth, the second, a performance under the Cutty Sark. In both cases the venue contributed greatly to the enjoyment of the gig. Having a 900 tonne ship hovering overhead is not something that occurs regularly, so such an unusual event is going to feature highly. The other BSP gig, was also due to a combination of venue and sunset, hearing BSP practice on Bournemouth pier as the sun set made for a fantastic evening.

Another interesting gig, was the Bo Ningen, Savages joint performance of a ‘sound poem’. With each band situated on either side of me at times it did feel like I was being pummelled by a wall of sound.

But the gig of the year for me was BSP at the Bournemouth arts festival. Sitting listening to the band practice ‘Man of Aran’ while the sun set was a sublime experience, so that I went into the gig in such a good mood that it was always going to be a good performance.

 

Band of the year: Savages

A strong year for the Savages seeing them five times. Starting at the beginning of 2013 with a gig at the Electric Ballroom. At the time, this was a big venue for them. But as the year progressed and their year gigging on both sides of the Atlantic, the venues got bigger and bigger. Some bands are unable to grow their sound and performances. So by the time they were playing the Forum at the end of the year, their performances and stage shows had matured to fill the space.

Savages

 

Biggest disappointment: Babyshambles

I can’t stress how awful this gig was. Babyshambles were as their name suggests, a shambles, coming on late and completely drunk. I’ve never heard so many bum notes played in a single gig and the less said about Pete Doherty’s ‘performance’ the better. It was ‘sub-karaoke’ level.

Babyshambles
A drunk Doherty performing karaoke

A notable mention to Frank Turner. If there was an award for blandest band of the year, he’d have won.

 

Best new band: The Wytches

Simply the best new band I’ve seen this year by a country mile. Love their sound and the lead singer’s cracked voice. Really think these could be big next year.

Wytches
 

Best venue: The Lexington

Even though I went to several new venues this year, the Lexington continues to be my favourite venue. Just love the sound quality and the US beer available. Food’s also decent.
The Drums at the Lexington

 

Best new venue: Shacklewell Arms

Great little venue in Dalston. Sound’s decent, beer selection’s not great, but it has football on in the main pub. Unusual for a gig venue but perfect for keeping me entertained between bands.

Parlour
Parlour playing the Shacklewell Arms

 

Most Interesting venue: British Sea Power playing under the Cutty Sark

A 900 tonne hull hovering over your head. It’s not something you experience every day.

BSP under the Cutty Sark

 

Best Festival: SXSW

SXSW

Love this festival. 1800 bands, great films, and some work related stuff (not that I attended any of it), lots of opportunities for free food and beer, and generally great weather in one of the best cities in the USA. What’s not to love about it.

I love hopping between venues on 6th Street catching as many bands as possible.

I can’t afford SXSW 2014, but saving starts now for 2015!

 

Worst Venue: The Forum Hertfordshire

As much as I hate to write this again, work continues to win the award for the worst venue, even though it’s actually a very good venue. Sound and lighting are excellent, up there with the best. But the selection of music it plays and the overall experience of attending a gig continue to be sub-standard with poor queue handling (but usually pleasant), no food (especially out of term, which isn’t helpful when it’s in the middle of nowhere), poor beer selection (usually half the pumps are off), slow service (but usually pleasant service) and poor advertising of events.

Tips:

  • Drop wristbands and use stamps
  • Make sure that the other bars are opened up to support big events.
  • Better selection of beer – or at least make sure that the beer isn’t going to run out during the gig.
  • Better advertising for indie music.
  • Better and more regular selection of bands so that people expect there to be bands playing and so regularly check listings.

 

Best gig photo:

My last post pulled together some of the photos I liked the most, taken during 2013. So have a look at that post for the contenders. But my favourite photo from 2013 was this photo of Thurston Moore taken at the Village Underground.

Chelsea Light Moving at the Village Underground

 

Best gig video:

Again, not too much choice as I didn’t take too many videos this year. So this wins really by default

 

Music Application of the year: Songkick

Songkick’s gone from strength to strength and again wins the award for Best App despite strong newcomers such as ‘Bands In Town’. It simply is the best source of information on upcoming gigs.

 

So what’s in store for 2014?

If I want to get to SXSW in 2015, then less of the same! I’m also hoping to get to some random gigs purely to take photos to improve by skills. Hopefully discovering some new bands along the way. But all in all, more of the same.

Addendum: Honorary Mention
I forgot to add an honorary mention for the extremely honest XOYO security staff who found my iPhone on Old Street one Saturday evening when I’d been attending gigs in Hoxton Square. They managed to get in touch with me through Facebook and I was reunited with my phone. Exemplary service.